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The office is open Monday - Friday from 7:30am to 4:30pm.
OFFICIAL LINCOLN NATIONAL FOREST WEBSITE
Campgrounds on the Sacramento Ranger District (Aspen Group Campground, Black Bear Group Campground, Lower Fir Group Campground, Upper Fir Group Campground, Slide Group Campground) may be reserved from 5 days to a year in advance by calling 1-877-444-6777. There is now a World Wide Web site set up to access the National Recreation Reservation Center. You can make reservations over the internet or see if a reservation site is available or not, for any National Forest site that accepts or requires reservations. There is information about state and private campgrounds, also.
The Lincoln National Forest, birthplace of Smokey Bear, the living symbol of fire prevention, is located in south-central New Mexico. The Forest covers over 1.1 million acres stretching north from Texas past the Capitan Mountains. The Lincoln National Forest was first set aside as a forest reserve in 1902 to protect and conserve recreation and water.
Extending down the lower one-third of New Mexico, the Lincoln National Forest provides a diversity of landscapes, landforms, and an assortment of plant and animal habitats. Travelers will find spectacular views of sunsets across the desert as well as breathtaking views of the Tularosa Basin and White Sands National Monument from the Sunspot Scenic Byway. Higher elevations offer mountain meadows, mixtures of pine, fir, aspen, oak, and other vibrant greens which are broken by the brilliance of wildflowers, blossoming plants, and trees that change with the season. Two Wilderness Areas exist on the Forest ranging in elevations from 4,000 to 11,500 feet which pass through five different life zones from Chihuahuan Desert to sub-alpine forest.
Under the National Forest Management Act of 1976, the Forest Service was charged by Congress to provide multiple use management of all National Forests. This was done to provide a variety of goods and services to the public, such as wood products, wildlife habitat, livestock grazing, watershed, and recreation. The ability of the Forest to meet demands for forest resources depends on the physical capability of the land to supply them and the management activities available to promote resource opportunities. During your visit to the Lincoln National Forest, you might encounter evidence of many different management activities such as recreation construction, timber harvest, trail maintenance, increased winter sports opportunities or perhaps evidence of controlled burning to maintain openings, improve grazing for wildlife and livestock, and to improve watershed conditions.
More people use Lincoln National Forest and the surrounding area for recreation than for all other uses combined. Climatic relief provided by the mountains draw people in the summer from surrounding desert and plains. The Forest offers the user a variety of recreational opportunities any season of the year. Whether you enjoy sight-seeing, wildlife watching, picnicking, camping, hiking, nature study, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, motorcycling, snowmobiling, alpine or cross country skiing, or caving, the Lincoln National Forest can provide the recreational experience you are seeking.
Over half of the recreation use on the Forest consists of dispersed activities such as hiking, hunting, fishing, cave exploring, motorized vehicle travel, and mountain biking. Dispersed recreation use is available throughout the Forest at no charge. For those who prefer the less rigorous type of camping, developed sites are available. The Forest offers twelve developed campgrounds, six group camp and picnic grounds and two day use picnic areas, all of which offer the user the serenity of Forest camping.
The Forest contains two Wilderness Areas. One can find a variety of trails winding through the White Mountain Wilderness offering unique recreational opportunities and views for the equestrian, hikers and hunter. Wildlife, consisting of mule deer, turkey, elk and black bear are plentiful, however, fishing opportunities are limited.
The Capitan Mountain Wilderness is best known as the place where Smokey Bear was found in 1950. The Capitan Mountains represent a geologic anomaly in the western hemisphere in that it is one of the few ranges that runs east and west. Most of the area is steep and rocky except for open meadows along the main ridge top. The east end of the range has many outcroppings and is very rough terrain. Both of the wilderness areas are located on the Smokey Bear Ranger District.
The mountains also provide winter sports opportunities not found elsewhere in the area. Tubing, snowmobiling and cross-county skiing activities are quite popular. Two downhill ski areas are partially located on the National Forest.
Caving is a very popular activity in the Guadalupe Mountains. The southern most tip of the District includes approximately 35 square miles of rugged mountains and canyons, which is a massive exposure of the ancient Captain Barrier reef. The reef, a limestone formation, was created from lime secreted by algae when this area was covered by a shallow sea. The sea dissipated and the reef uplifted, resulting in extensive cavern systems formed within the reef, with magnificent and curious formations.
Sites which are accessible to persons with a disability on the Lincoln consist of South Fork Campground, La Posada Interpretive Trail, and Cedar Creek Group Campground.
Nearby points of interest in proximity to the Lincoln National Forest include the Smokey Bear State Park, White Sands National Monument, Cloudcroft Museum, Desert Lake Golf Course, Oliver Lee State Park, Silver Lake, Space Hall of Fame, Sunspot Solar Observatory, and Three Rivers Petroglyph Site.
Lincoln National Forest History
This article was
originally a presentation to the Tularosa Basin Historical
Society on May 17, 1977 by Stanley Stroup. It was taken from
what historical information Mr. Stroup could find in the
files at the Forest Supervisor’s office in Alamogordo.
idea of Congress and the Government of the United States for
years was to transfer all the public domain land into
private ownership. The main act that implemented this was
the Homestead Act of 1862. Other methods were railroad grant
lands, the timber cultural act and timber stone act, all
passed in the middle 1800's. In 1875, the American Forestry
Association was organized. About this same time there were
quite a few people in the United States who were becoming
aware of the fact that timber supplies were not
inexhaustible, and that some method needed to be arrived at
to maintain or preserve some of the timber supplies and also
provide for watershed protection on public lands.
In 1876, the first
forestry agent was hired in the Department of Agriculture.
This was a forerunner of the current Forest Service
organization. This first forest agent did not have any land
to manage or really any authority, or very little authority,
over government actions. He mostly provided information to
private landowners who wanted to know how to better manage
their forest resources.
In 1891 an act was
passed authorizing the President of the United States to set
aside lands as forest reserves. However, these lands were to
be set aside and managed by the General Land Office in the
Department of Interior and not by the Forestry office in the
Department of Agriculture. The first reserve set aside was
the Yellowstone Forest reserve which was adjacent to the
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana. The idea
was to provide a buffer around the already established
Yellowstone National Park.
It is interesting to
note that the first forest reserve established in New Mexico
was in 1892, which included the upper drainage of the Pecos
River and was called the Pecos Forest Reserve. In 1905 the
Forest Service was established in the Department of
Agriculture and the Forest Reserves were transferred, at
that time, from the Department of the Interior to the
Department of Agriculture. Then in 1907 the name of the
Forest Reserves was changed to National Forests. What now
constitutes the Lincoln National Forest used to be parts of
five other National Forests or Forest Reserves. The Lincoln
National Forest was originally established on July 26, 1902
with the office in Capitan. This area only included the
White Mountains and Capitan Mountains. Presidential
proclamations were then signed in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1910,
and 1919 adding additional lands to the Lincoln National
On April 19, 1907 the
Guadalupe National Forest was established. This was composed
of the Guadalupe Mountains down near the Texas border, west
of Carlsbad. On July 2, 1907 the Guadalupe National Forest
was combined with the Alamo National Forest to form the
Sacramento National Forest.
On April 24, 1907 a
proclamation was issued to establish the Sacramento National
Forest. This included the area south of the Mescalero Apache
Reservation to the end of the Sacramento Mountain range. As
mentioned previously on July 2, 1908, Sacramento National
Forest was combined with the Guadalupe National Forest to
form the Alamo National Forest. The office for the Alamo
National Forest was located in Alamogordo during the winter
time, but it moved to Cloudcroft during the summer.
sequence of events then occurred in relationship to the
Alamo National Forest. On March 2, 1909 part of the
Mescalero Apache Reservation was added to the Alamo National
Forest. This is the area east and north of Tularosa in what
is now the northwest corner of the Apache Reservation.
Because of complaints by the Indians and other people
interested in Indian welfare, these lands were then returned
back to the reservation on the first of March, 1912.
In 1910 and again in
1916 additional lands were added to the Alamo National
Forest, a part of it in the Sacramento Mountains and part of
it in the Guadalupe Mountains. On June 6, 1917 the Alamo
National Forest was combined with the Lincoln National
Forest to form what is pretty much the current boundaries of
the Lincoln National Forest. The headquarters for the
Lincoln National Forest was then moved to Alamogordo.
A proclamation was
signed on November 5, 1906 creating the Gallinas National
Forest. This is an area that is west of Corona. Then in 1908
some additional land was added to this area and the Gallinas
National Forest was combined with the Lincoln National
Forest. The Gallinas Mountains were then part of the Lincoln
National Forest until 1958 when a law was passed and these
lands were transferred from the Lincoln National Forest to
the Cibola National Forest, with headquarters in
There were a lot of
boundary adjustments made in the National Forests from the
time they were originally created up until the late 1920's.
The original proclamation setting aside the National Forests
contained broad descriptions based mostly on township
boundaries (a township for your information, is six miles
square or six miles on a side of 36 square miles). These
areas at times did not very well correspond with existing
mountain ranges, forested areas or non-forested areas.
Consequently over a period of years better surveys were made
and better knowledge gained of the country. A series of
proclamations over the years were issued adjusting the
boundaries of the National Forests.
Over the years a
series of events occurred effecting the Lincoln Forest or
the Alamo National Forest. Several proclamations were signed
during the years eliminating parts of the National Forest
because they were not suitable for National Forest purposes.
The basis for establishing most of the Lincoln National
Forest was the preservation of commercial timber stands and
for watershed protection. In fact, for the Guadalupe
Mountain area, the sole basis for establishing the National
Forest was for watershed protection. In the years prior to
1907 there were several serious floods in the Pecos River
Valley around Carlsbad that originated from the Guadalupe
Mountains. The residents believed that the floods were due
to overgrazing and removal of vegetation in the mountains.
The National Forest
used to extend out closer to Alamogordo than where it is
located at present. Also there was a row of townships across
the southern part of the Sacramento Mountains that used to
be part of the National Forest. This was also true on the
east side of the Sacramento Mountains in the vicinity of Elk
In 1924 a proclamation
was issued delineating several thousand acres of the
National Forest south and east of Mayhill. The purpose of
this was to make this land available to veterans of the
First World War for homesteading purposes.
During the winter of
1913 and 1914 there was a very strong effort of the local
people to eliminate the Alamo National Forest. This was
before the Alamo was combined with the Lincoln National
Forest in 1917. A petition was circulated and signed by
approximately 640 people to have 900,000 acres of the Alamo
National Forest returned back to the public domain. About 60
of these people contributed money to help finance the cost.
A board was appointed to plan and carry out the effort. The
spokesman that was elected for this board was a gentleman by
the name of Thomas B. Longwell. Mr. Longwell was an
ex-Forest Service employee. He had been hired by the Forest
Service to conduct timber surveys in the Sacramento
Mountains as well as other locations. He was selected as a
spokesman for the group because he had the most knowledge of
the land and the timber resources on the Alamo National
Forest. In March 1914, Mr. Longwell went back to Washington
D.C. to present his case before the Forest Service and the
Department of Agriculture employees. There were many reasons
given for the government to return the land, but behind all
these reasons was the basic idea that the public domain land
belonged to the local people and they did not think it was
desirable to have their activities controlled by the Federal
There was another
interesting idea that kept occurring from about 1908 until
it finally died out about 1920. This was the idea to
establish a national park out of the Sacramento Mountains
and a portion of the Mescalero Indian Reservation. Also
included was a little bit of the then existing Lincoln
National Forest in the area of Ruidoso. This proposal was
mostly made by Congressmen from Texas and southern New
Mexico, who even at that time, recognized the importance of
the Lincoln National Forest area for recreation and for
climatic relief for the dwellers in the dry, desert type
country. The effort never really gained too much support on
a national basis because the Lincoln National Forest,
although scenicly attractive, was not an outstanding
attraction as compared to places like Yellowstone Park,
Grand Canyon, and other areas that were being established as
National Parks around that time.
The early Forest
Service employees were almost all political appointees,
especially the Forest Supervisors who usually came from
population centers in the eastern half of the United States.
The forest rangers, as they were called then and now, were
usually local people. The general requirements for these
early day rangers were that they had to be capable of hard
work, and they had to be able to ride horses, handle
firearms, and have some knowledge of farming. The early
rangers were only paid $900 dollars a year. Out of this $900
they had to provide their own horse, their own saddle, and
their own weapons. One of the of the early day rangers was
to raise their own horse feed.
There is an
interesting story related about one of the early Forest
Supervisors in New Mexico who was a political appointee.
This gentleman came from Illinois and had worked as editor
of a newspaper. This Supervisor when he was out riding
always carried an umbrella with him. One day it started to
rain as he was going by a pasture where some livestock were
grazing. There was, just inside the fence, a mother cow and
a newborn calf. This Forest Supervisor got off his horse,
crawled through the fence, walked over and put his umbrella
over the calf to try to protect it from the rain. After a
couple of minutes the mother cow became just a little
alarmed, and tried to attack the Supervisor. As he was
escaping through the fence he managed to tear his uniform.
This incident is related in a book that was published in
1972 titled “Men to Match the Mountains.”
For the Alamo National
Forest in 1911, rangers were stationed at La Luz,
Cloudcroft, Elk, Weed, Pinon, Hope and Queen. The later was
located in the Guadalupe Mountains. In 1911 Lincoln National
Forest Rangers were stationed at Capitan, Glencoe, Lincoln,
Richardson, Hollaway, Progresso, and White Oaks. Hollaway
and Progresso may have been locations in the Gallinas
Mountains near Corona.
Here are a couple more
items from this book on the early Forest Service employees
and some of their problems. One well known Supervisor was a
gentleman by the name of Fred Breen, a newspaper man from
Illinois, who was Supervisor of the Coconio National Forest
from 1901 until he resigned. He was known for putting out
interesting instructions to his rangers. Some of these are
quoted in this book. An example "Rangers are employed for
the purpose of protecting Government land and timber, a
ranger’s whole time is to be devoted to the interest of the
Government, and to no other private businesses. Rangers are
expected to go to a fire at once, wherever one is discovered
within a reasonable distance of his district. Daily reports
should show where he went and the purpose of his visit, the
distance traveled, and the time consumed each day. Or if the
employees have been building fire brakes, piling brush,
building trails, or other similar work, state the amount of
work done in a comprehensive manner, that the amount may be
known. Post fire warnings along all roads, trails, and
springs, and other camping places. Nail them up, securely
and plentifully. Merely riding over your district does not
constitute the duties of a ranger. They should be on the
lookout for all things effecting the reserve. Find the most
exposed places and remove the debris to protect the forest
from fires, be constantly on the alert for trespass, and
In 1908, Mr. Breen
decided to resign, and wrote a letter of resignation to the
Chief Forester in Washington D.C. Below is a quote of that
"I thought I had a
bright future before me, but that durn bright future has
certainly sidestepped me along the routes somewhere and must
be loafing behind. I was not promoted in 1905, when the
transfer was made from the Land office. I didn't think much
about it at the time, one way or the other. But when I did
get promoted in 1906 I was glad I wasn't promoted in 1905. I
was getting $2,371 until my promotion came along in 1906,
which gave me $2,200. I knew it was a promotion for my
commission from the Secretary of the Interior; said so right
square in the middle of it. In 1907, I was raised to $2,300.
So I am still shy some of the good 'old salary that I
started with way back in September 1898, with only the San
Francisco Mountain National Forest to handle. The fellas on
Black Mesa and Grand Canyon Forests were getting the same
amount that I got. But when they fell by the wayside, I fell
heir to their territory, and their troubles, but none of the
pesos they were getting. One can get a heap more money out
of a little old band of sheep or something of that kind,
even if his intellect doesn't average over 30%, with a whole
lot of less trouble, and retain some friends; but with this
job the general public just naturally gets cross if you try
to enforce the rules, and if you don't enforce the rules
then you get cross; so the Supervisor gets double cross
whatever happens, and has no pension at the end of the game
to sorta ease down in his old age when the pace is too fast.
While I think a good deal of forestry, I realize that a man
can't live in this country and lay up anything unless he
gets a good salary; consequently, believe I should go out
and make money while I can. I feel mighty relieved at the
prospect of some other fella being accused of prejudice,
ignorance, partiality, graft, ulterior motives, laziness,
salary grabbing and other such innocent pastimes. I am, glad
there will be a bright young man here March 15, to separate
me and my troubles and let me wander away to new fields
where the bleat of the sheep, the height of a stump, the
brand of the cow nor even a special privilege can hop up and
fill me with fright or woe."
This article from the
archives of the Sacramento Mountains Historical Museum was
slightly edited to conserve space. The Photos are also from
the Museum. Visit the museum in Cloudcroft and find out
more about the history of the Sacramento Mountains.
Knowing what has
happened in the past helps you understand the present, and
prepare for the future!